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NIHR Global Health Policy and Systems Research (Global HPSR) – Finance Guidance for Applicants for the Commissioned Call


Published: 17 September 2019

Version: 1.0 September 2019

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The Global Health Policy and Systems Research (Global HPSR) Programme is funded via the UK Government’s commitment to Official Development Assistance (ODA) and supports high-quality applied health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), as defined from time to time by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) and listed on the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list.

The Global HPSR Commissioned Call will provide funding of a maximum of £4m per application for a period of up to 4 years for partnerships/consortia led by two Joint Lead Applicants (one from a ODA-eligible country and one from a UK institution) and up to three additional Co-Applicants from ODA-eligible LMIC, UK and non-LMIC institutions. Applications proposing non-LMIC Co-Applicants are in scope provided there is clear justification for their involvement and those resources cannot be found within ODA-eligible countries.

Official Development Assistance (ODA) eligibility

The research must be focused on improving the health and welfare of the poorest and most vulnerable people in ODA-eligible countries. In order to be eligible to receive ODA funding, applications must demonstrate how they meet ODA compliance criteria and outline:

  • Which country or countries on the DAC list of ODA-eligible countries will directly benefit?
  • How the application is directly and primarily relevant to the development challenges of those countries?
  • How the outcomes will promote the health and welfare of a country or countries on the DAC list?

Applicants should ensure they have considered existing advice on ODA eligibility and that information on how the application for funding will be ODA-compliant is included in the application. Any queries about the ODA eligibility of programmes should be raised with the relevant NIHR Coordinating Centre as early as possible.

For more details about ODA see the OECD “What is ODA” page. Additionally, further information can be found at:


 General information

  • Applications will be considered for a maximum of 4 years duration and up to a value of £4m.

  • Applicants are required to complete the budget spreadsheet and to provide a breakdown of costs associated with delivering proposed research plans.
  • All funds must be requested at current price at the time of the submission and inflation must not be included. Annual inflationary uplifts may be awarded to successful Applicants by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) depending on the budget available.
  • The budget spreadsheet will be used to assess value for money. It is in your best interest to undertake a thorough, realistic and accurate costing. You must provide a clear and full justification for all costs. Further itemisation of costs and methods of calculation should be included to support your application. Failure to provide a sound justification for expenditure will result in costs not being funded.
  • Programme years should be calculated starting from the anticipated start date of the proposed research. The start date should be on the first of the month, e.g. 1 September 2020.

  • All costs must be reasonable, justifiable and compliant with the principles of robust financial management. Expenditure must be identifiable, verifiable and recorded in accounts with applicable accounting standards. NIHR reserves the right to inspect the accounting records at any time.

  • Once an award has been made, NIHR on behalf of Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) will require award holders to provide regular financial statements regarding the actual use of funds. As this funding must be Official Development Assistance (ODA) compliant, Applicants will also be required to forecast their expenditure on a quarterly basis.

 The submission quarters are:

1 April - 30 June

1 July – 30 September

1 October – 31 December

1 January – 31 March

The financial reports are due 1 month after the quarter end. 

  • DHSC also reserves the right to send independent auditors to confirm the actual use of funds.
  • Funding and contracting must take place via the UK based HEIs or Research Institutes.
  • Appropriate sub-contracts must be put in place for any elements of the award which are to be paid to other organisations.
  • Applications for Global HPSR Commissioning Awards may include studentships provided that these are co-terminus with the award. All studentships will be considered, including but not limited to MScs and PhDs.

  •  Organisations which are unable to reclaim Value-Added Tax (VAT) should include costs inclusive of VAT, otherwise VAT must be excluded. Seek advice of your VAT expert to determine the VAT status of your organisation.

Information on different types of organisations

UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)

 UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) should determine the Full Economic Costing (FEC) of their research using Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC) methodology. NIHR will fund up to 80% of the HEI’s FEC. If less than 80% is claimed, please amend the value in “% to be funded” column of the budget spreadsheet as appropriate.

NHS organisations

For applications that include NHS organisations, up to 100% of direct costs will be paid. No indirect costs will be funded.

Other UK-based organisations

For applications that include other types of organisations based in the UK (e.g. charities, research institutes, commercial organisations etc), up to 100% of direct costs will be paid. Indirect costs can be requested and should be charged in proportion to the amount of staff effort requested on the funding application.

Co-Applicant Institutions based in LMICs

 All direct and indirect costs will be funded at 100% for ODA-eligible countries.

Commercial and other Co-Applicant organisations not based in LMICs

For commercial organisations, consultancies and other Co-Applicant organisations not based in ODA-eligible LMICs or UK up to 100% of direct costs will be paid but no indirect costs will be supported for these organisations.

Please see the sections below for further details of the types of costs that can be claimed.

Direct costs

Direct costs are those ODA-eligible costs that will be incurred by the Contractor (and any Co-Applicants) in carrying out the proposed plans. These should be charged as the amount actually spent and should be supported by an audit record.Eligible direct costs are listed in the sub-headings below.

Staff costs

Reasonable and proportionate staff costs can be requested. These should include employer’s contributions toward national insurance, pension and apprenticeship levy.

Staff costs should be based on current salary scales and include agreed annual increments. You will not be able to claim for pay awards retrospectively, once your programme is underway. Estimated uplifts for inflation should NOT be included.

Salaries may be sought at a level appropriate to the skills, responsibilities and expertise necessary to carry out the role required.

Salaries that are already being fully or in-part funded by the NIHR must be declared in the justification of costs section and cannot be claimed for again.

There are specific and detailed requirements for monitoring, reporting and financial assurance relating to the distribution and use of ODA funds. Applicants are, therefore, strongly encouraged to include appropriate programme management and financial resource and capacity to support financial reporting and due diligence requirements.

Student stipend costs if applicable should be included within the salary section. As a minimum stipend rates should match the rates set by UKRI.

Student fees should be included within “Other direct costs”. Institutions can consider part-funding studentship or training posts and in-kind contributions to support research and wider infrastructure capacity development and ensure value for money.

Travel, subsistence and conference costs

Travel and subsistence costs of collaborative working visits and engagement with potential stakeholders can be requested. You may also request travel and subsistence costs of your programme advisory groups, steering committees, data monitoring and ethics committees. Travel and subsistence in relation to programme meetings and dissemination activities can also be claimed.

A comprehensive breakdown of all costs should be provided. 

  • Travel costs

All journeys by rail or air should be budgeted by a class of travel that is no higher than standard economy unless higher-class travel is required to comply with specific legislation. NIHR funding schemes do not fund first class travel.

For UK travel only: If travel is by car, apply your institution’s mileage rates. However, there should not exceed HMRC approved mileage allowances (45p per mile for the first 10,000 business miles and 25p per mile thereafter).

For travel within LMIC territories: all journeys must be charged according to the most appropriate (basic or standard) local rate. 

  • Subsistence

Subsistence covers accommodation (if necessary) and meals associated with travel. All cost must be based on actual receipted expenditure. Alcohol and tobacco are not allowable subsistence items. Per diem payments for subsistence are not permitted. 

  • Conferences

Where national or international conference costs are requested, a statement naming the conference or purpose of travel and the benefit to the programme must be included. Failure to adequately justify the attendance at a conference will result in these costs not being funded.


Essential items of equipment (lease or purchase costs) including maintenance and other related costs can be requested. The proposed cost of all equipment to be purchased needs to be fully justified and all proposed costs should be good value for money. NIHR may challenge proposed costs that it does not consider appropriate or does not offer value for money.

UK HEIs who claim FEC cannot request equipment items that are included within the estates element of FEC.

Equipment purchase for use in the UK host organisations would not normally be supported. If equipment is required for the use in UK, a clear justification must be provided, including as to how the purchase will be of the direct and principal benefit to the LMIC community. Please note that equipment bought within the NHS cannot be funded by the NIHR. Please ensure no NHS equipment costs are included in your application.

Costs of computers and laptops are normally restricted to a maximum of £650 each excluding VAT and a statement of justification must be included, in the ‘Justification of Costs’ section for any purchase above this limit.

Items of equipment valued at £250 or more (or equivalent in local currency) must be itemised separately; however grouping same type equipment is permitted.

NIHR considers any equipment and/or supplies purchased in part or fully from DHSC funds as programme assets if they have a useful life of more than one year; and either

(1) the purchase price or development cost of the asset is in excess of £500 or equivalent in local currency; or

(2) is a group of lower value items (e.g. pharmaceutical products, food, relief packs, etc.) where the combined value is in excess of £500 or equivalent in local currency; or

(3) can be considered an attractive item regardless of cost (e.g. mobile phones, cameras, laptops, tablets, satellite phones, vehicles, etc.).

NIHR Award Holders are expected to keep an up-to-date asset register, and report this to the NIHR on an annual basis.

At the end of the programme the equipment will remain the property of the relevant Co-Applicant or the contractor and must continue to be used for ODA-eligible activities. 


This section includes items specific to the programme. Please itemise and describe the requirements fully (e.g. printing of leaflets, postage, etc.). These items should be specific to the research programme, not just general office costs.

Community engagement and involvement 

Please include realistic costs for Community Engagement and Involvement considering the UNICEF Minimum Standards for Community Engagement. Involving people in the programme requires resources in terms of time and monetary payments. It is really important to account for the costs of involvement at early stage. These are likely to include:

  • Payments in recognition of time, skills and expertise,
  • Out of pocket expenses such as travel and subsistence
  • Training and learning costs – training and induction for members of the public may be required for many involvement activities, payment for time for policy makers and other stakeholders and any relevant support costs. All costs should be itemised and described. 

NIHR INVOLVE have produced a number of useful resources in relation to community engagement and involvement, which can be found following the links:


Costs associated with publication, presentation of findings can be requested as part of this award. All costs should be calculated on the basis on the lowest possible estimates. Breakdown of all costs and activities must be provided. Any large costs should be further detailed with a breakdown of constituent parts or a timescale profile of the costs. Meetings to share best practice, training events and events to disseminate research findings must be run at the lowest possible cost with minimal catering. ‘Conferences’ which are described as such are not eligible for funding.

During the course of your award you may choose to submit an article based on your programme to an open access publication, which may be subject to an Article Processing Charge (APC). If applicable, please include the costs of APCs.

For more details about NIHR Open Access policy, please visit:

Risk management and assurance 

Costs associated with proportionate risk management and assurance may be requested as part of this application for funding. There are specific requirements for monitoring and financial assurance relating to the distribution and use of ODA funds.

To make effective arrangements for risk management and assurance, Applicants should consider the financial systems and financial management capacity of ODA-eligible Co-Applicants and the level of risk within the country, and tailor the assurance and monitoring processes appropriately. The use Good Financial Grants Practice (GFGP) in order to identify gaps in financial capacity, governance, systems etc. is strongly encouraged. GFGP audits and accreditation costs can be requested.

Costs specific to safeguarding activities are also permitted.

Other direct costs 

These are costs, not identified elsewhere, that are specifically attributed to the Global HPSR Commissioned Award. For example, external consultancy costs, software licensing, studentship fees and advertising costs.

Please note that external consultants must not be people who are already employed by the contracting institution or any other Co-Applicants involved in the programme. All employees must be shown under staff costs. Any consultancy costs must be justified and a number of days and a daily rate must be stated. 

Events to share best practice and training workshops such as sending out UK colleagues to provide specific training to their in-country counterparts can be requested within this section. 

Translation costs of programme specific documents can also be claimed as long as these can be supported by an audit record. 

Ethical and other regulatory approval specific to the proposed research can also be requested as part of “other direct costs”. 

Student fees can be claimed as part of other direct costs. NIHR will fund full PhD and Master’s costs for LMIC students based in ODA-eligible countries 

NIHR will also fund stipend and student fees for LMIC students based in ODA-eligible countries but registered at an institution in a High Income Country (HIC). In cases where the application includes LMIC student fees at a HIC institution it is expected that the relevant Joint-Lead Applicant will negotiate with the HIC institution for reduced fees for the LMIC candidate. Application for funding should show an evidence of fees being reduced.

English language training in the context of all studentships is an eligible cost, provided clear justification and a strong value for money argument are given.

Please note: HIC student fees or stipend are eligible only for ODA-eligible students. Student fees or stipend for a HIC students registered at an HIC institution would not be eligible, regardless of the programme of study.

Indirect costs / overheads

Indirect costs will be charged in proportion to the amount of staff effort requested on the award. They may include but are not limited to: 

  • General office and basic laboratory consumables
  • Premises costs
  • Library services/learning resources
  • Typing/secretarial
  • Finance, personnel, public relations and departmental services 
  • Usage costs of major research facilities
  • Central and distributed computing 
  • Charge out rates for shared equipment 
  • Cost of capital employed


UK HEIs may request indirect costs and estates that form part of Full Economic Costing. These are calculated on the number of full-time equivalent research effort working on the programme. Up to 80% of these costs will be funded. Indirect costs will be scrutinised as part of Value for Money assessment and therefore these costs must be fully justified as to why these costs are being requested and how they will contribute to the overall research.

UK HEI indirect costs cannot be claimed on shared staff costs. 

LMIC Institutions

ODA-eligible LMIC institutions may include actual and real costs of undertaking the research in low-resource setting. Indirect costs can be claimed and should be charged in proportion to the total amount of staff effort (research and support staff) requested on the application for funding. 

UK NHS organisations

NHS organisations cannot claim any indirect costs though NIHR programmes. 

Other organisations

Indirect costs of other Co-Applicant organisations based in ODA-eligible countries or the UK can be claimed and should be charged in proportion to the amount of staff effort requested on the funding application form. Indirect costs for non-LMIC based Co-Applicant institutions are not supported.

All indirect costs requested as part of application must be fully justified as to why these costs are being requested and how they will contribute to the delivery of the objectives of the programme.

Ineligible costs

 The following costs are not eligible under Global HPSR Commissioned Awards:

  • Any costs that cannot be classed as ODA eligible as defined by the OECD
  • Cost associated with lobbying or any other political or exclusively religious activities
  • First and Business class travel
  • Per diem costs for travel and subsistence for all staff employed on the programme
  • Alcohol and tobacco
  • Entertainment
  • NHS support and treatment costs
  • Costs associated with animals or their tissues
  • Establishing and running new Bio banks
  • Fines and penalties
  • Costs already funded by NIHR or any other public organisations
  • Payments reimbursed or to be reimbursed by other public or private sector funding
  • Contributions in kind (i.e. contributions in goods or services as opposed to money)
  • VAT reclaimable from HMRC
  • Contingency
  • Interest payments
  • Inflation or foreign exchange rate contingency

Funding will not be provided to meet the costs of basic research or work involving animals or their tissues, or work which is not predominantly and directly relevant to the needs of developing countries.

NHS Equipment costs will not be funded by NIHR Global HPSR funding.

Organisations claiming indirect costs as part of Full Economic Costing are not permitted to claim costs such as staff recruitment (including advertising), general training (eg. common IT packages) and general office costs (e.g. non-programme specific printing and photocopying) as these are covered by the indirect costs envelope. Additionally, UK HEIs are not permitted to claim redundancy costs as provision for redundancy should be made in the Cost of Capital Employed, which is charged with the indirect costs element of FEC.

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